Italian team shows its sabre teeth

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Baku, June 27, AZERTAC

Massimiliano Murolo kept his nerve against individual European Games silver medallist Tiberiu Dolniceanu to clinch victory for Italy over Romania in a thrilling men's team sabre final which was only decided in a dramatic last duel.

The teams were level at 44-44 in the anchor leg, with the first team to 45 points taking gold.

After two clashes when both fencers registered simultaneous hits, Murolo jumped in with an acrobatic move to clinch the key point and a 45-44 win.

"In the last touch, I didn’t think. I just did it. It was instinctive," Murolo said.

Despite leaving some of their top names at home, Italy have been the dominant force in the fencing competition in Baku. The quartet of Murolo, individual bronze medallists Luigi Miracco and Alberto Pellegrini, and Giovanni Repetti, sealed the country their third fencing gold of the Games.

"Dolniceanu is one of the best fencers in the world and it is very difficult to beat him," said Pellegrini. "The last touch was just unbelievable. It’s fantastic to win this gold medal together, because we are all 27 years old and we have grown up together as fencers. Now, it has all come together with a gold medal."

Germany took the bronze medal after a superb tussle with Russia which also saw late drama. The two teams were tied at 44-44 before Richard Huebers just managed to register a touch on Boris Savich to win the clash 45-44.

In the women's team epee competition, individual champion Ana Maria Branza helped Romania end Estonia's hopes of a first gold medal of the European Games.

Their world no.3 Erika Kirpu was second best again against Italy's world no.2 Branza, who won the final 31-25 together with Simona Pop, Amalia Tataran and Simona Gherman, also a bronze medallist in the individual event,

The match was a re-run of the team final at the European championships in Switzerland two weeks ago, involving exactly the same fencers when Romania won 45-35.

This time, after a tense, tactical start, Romania built up a 15-10 cushion going into the final three legs. In the penultimate clash, European bronze medallist Pop stretched the lead to 21-12 against Kirpu before Gherman brought the Romanians home despite the efforts of an attacking Irina Embrich.

"We are happy that we won the second gold medal within two weeks. It is wonderful," Branza said. "It is the biggest result for us and today is a national day in Romania, so what a present to give back to Romania.

"But we can’t enjoy it for too long. On Sunday we are back in training, because the world championships are just around the corner.”

Italy took the bronze medal after Alberta Santuccio dominated a dramatic anchor clash with Russian Anna Sivkova. Santuccio was trailing 30-28 but fought back to clinch the match 40-36 and spark wild celebrations on the strip from the Italian quartet and their coach.

Asked about the last 10 seconds, when Sivkova attacked fearlessly, Santuccio said: “Those were the longest 10 seconds in my life. There was so much adrenaline. I just wanted to win for the girls."

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